Too dependent on mega cities, we need fresh perspectives to urban growth! May 17, 2012

That the world is urbanizing rapidly is by now something we all understand. The implications of this massive shift in how humans live is still a subject of intense scrutiny and research among urban professionals, sociologists, geographers, demographers, economists and experts from a growing number of fields hitherto unrelated to spatial planning.

Delhi at No 4! An intriguing phenomenon of urbanization has been the formation of urban agglomerations, large urban areas that grow around a nuclear urban core and create a dense economic powerhouse that in turn attracts more businesses and people to it. In the latest edition of the Demographia World Urban Areas finds our own Delhi (along with its urban extensions in Haryana and UP) as the world’s 4th largest urban area, behind Tokya, Jakarta and Seoul. The cities considered big when we were growing up feature further down the list. New York comes in 7th. London, which ranked 3rd till the 1960s is not even in the largest 25 urban areas! Asian cities take center stage, followed by cities in South America and Africa. Within India, Mumbai (13th) and Kolkata (18th), usually considered larger urban concentrations that Delhi lag behind. Those in the real estate industry, who have been tracking closely the growing economic power of the Delhi National Capital Region, would perhaps not be so surprised as the rest of us.

The subcontinent is exploding! From a density perspective though, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad and Jaipur are Indian cities that feature in the list of the ten densest cities in the world! Seven of these ten are in the South Asian subcontinent (add Dhaka, which tops the list, Chittagong and Karachi)! To me, these statistics have driven home the need for much more urgent responses to our urban issues. And since the problems are going to stay, we need long-term, sustainable solutions, not stop gap ones.

Fresh ideas please! To me, it also makes me worry that we are overdependent on urban agglomerations and mega cities. It shows a terrible lack of imagination on the part of policy makers and planners to be unable to give impetus to smaller towns and create new urban areas that offer economic opportunities and offer quality of life to residents at the same time. These might stand a better chance at building a sustainable foundation (environmentally and socially) than the mega cities, where interventions are expensive and hard to implement!

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on May 17, 2012, in Urban Planning & Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. That’s what I want to research in my PhD proposal, if the univs out here accept my applications out here. I want to focus on small towns and on the mechanisms for them to come together to present public-private utilities/services sector an economy of scale that would interest investors.

  2. Sustaining lively hood in our metro areas is far too expensive for middle and lower income groups. Thus denying them the opportunities thrown by these industrial areas.
    Hopefully projects like the Proposed Delhi Mumbai Industrial corridor would help create new urban centers and in turn decentralize our metro cities.

    • Thanks for the observations. I work in the are of low income housing and the relationship with livelihood is something that is being widely recognized now as essential to sustain low income communities. I’m beginning to believe the government should create the policy climate to let market mechanisms prosper and focus on infrastructure alone. Plus be party to regulation, which should be autonomous. What do you think?

      • Yes having regulations is important, and we have them to some extent. But its implementation is lacking. And leaving everything to private sector wont solve the issue, as private developers do not find it profitable to invest in low cost/ budget housing.
        To give an example, the Maharashtra government had given vast stretch of land at Powai (Mumbai) to Hiranandani developers for peanut, on condition that it will build budget homes. What the developer did instead was built big houses and registered them as 3 or 4 small different flats. Thus abiding by the regulation and still sell them at premium!

      • I’m aware of that project. Its a shame! We’re working on a rating system for affordable housing with Ashoka. Should be interesting!

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